Logged and photographed by: Florence Creative Director, JP Olson.
Video by: Mike Raabe
Spearfishers: Brandon Wahlers & Ryan Moore
We have been working with the Riffe team on a product collaboration and wanted to throw a little party at our HQ to celebrate the launch. I asked some of the Riffe ambassadors to help out, knowing it would be super fun and grassroots with them pitching in. I tapped Brandon Wahlers, Ryan Moore and Mike Raabe to join the party planning committee. When we were chatting Brandon told me a story about hunting dog tooth tuna in a remote island chain. The currents weren’t cooperating and it looked like he was skunked. The villagers wanted him to get fish to feed the community. He found a couple monster Ulua and shot the smaller of the two, it ended up being over 170lbs which I think would be the world record except he didn’t claim it because he’s keeping the spot off the radar. His story inspired me to ask him and Ryan to get fish to feed our little community at Florence HQ in Newport Shores.
Brandon is the captain of the USNS Guam a 400 foot aluminum hull merchant marine cargo vessel based out of Okinawa; he does a two month break and then two months over there and so forth. He said we would go find fish before he had to leave for his next stint over seas. We wanted to throw the party the night before Brandon had to leave town giving him ample time to get fish. I got a call from him saying next Monday would be glassy and it was going to happen.
I met Brandon, Mike and Ryan at the Back Bay boat yard at 2:30 am that Monday Morning. We loaded up and had the boat in the water shortly after. It took a forever to get out of the harbor because the speed limit and how far the back bay is from the harbor mouth. Mike fell asleep in the cabin while Ryan, Brandon and I stayed up. I mostly just listened to their conversations with excitement and curiosity for the day ahead. When we passed San Clemente, Brandon told me stories of where he surfed during Marie and showed me some indicator points, then he pulled his phone out and scrolled through photos of him charging out there last winter.
Around Clemente we started seeing Mola Mola, if you’ve seen one before you know they kind of look like a shark’s dorsal fin emerging from the surface. There were millions of sailor jellies that the Molas were grazing on. I bet we saw over a hundred Mola Mola that day. We also saw a couple Fin Whales which are the second largest whale and Mike got out of bed to check it out. Then I saw something that looked bigger than a Mola and called it out to the guys. They said it was a Basking Shark and asked me if I could drive the boat. Mike threw the drone in the air and I spotted a couple more Basking Sharks, there were at least three or four of them. After he got the drone clips the three of them jumped in the water. It looked like they got some fun rides on the dorsal fin and the biggest one maybe 25’ long whipped around and charged at Brandon. We lost a little time at the Basking Shark incident and were behind schedule, our hope was to get to the bank by high tide at 7 but we were about an hour late. Mike got footage of a big school of 50lb yellows right when he jumped in but by the time Brandon and Ryan were in the water they were gone.
The guys dove all over the bank, there was a lot of swell and the currents were changing direction every time we moved the boat. I was getting more and more seasick until I could barely function. After three or so hours we bailed for Clemente and Mike asked me if I was seasick. I handed him my camera and leaned off the side and puked my guts out. I felt so much better after that, we hit a kelp paddy and Ryan got a little yellow tail which fired me up. Both Ryan and Brandon got proper yellows at Clemente and then we headed to some kelp forests at Catalina and I jumped in the water. It felt so nice to be diving after spending all day on the boat. We could hear the grey ghosts croaking and Mike was recording the sounds with some high tech waterproof mics. The croaking got really loud and Brandon said for sure we will get one on the next drop. Ryan came up and said he got one and I helped him dispatch the fish. He handed me his Raider 67” and I did a little hunting myself. As it got darker it felt sharky so we swam back to the boat and cleaned the fish. Mike was stoked because he is working on a white seabass documentary and wanted to film the reproductive organs of the specimen Ryan shot.
It was past midnight when I got home. Before I went to bed I looked up a couple of Kimi Werner’s recipes, she is a Riffe ambassador and I really wanted to find a way to include her in the party. She was in the Bahamas filming a show and since she couldn’t come dive with us I figured at least we can serve her recipes at the party.
The next morning we met at our office on PCH and broke down the fish. Everyone at work had a little White Sea Bass sashimi, it was delicious. When I told Ryan my plan to make Kimi’s recipes he acted a little suspect was like “dude, no offense but I don’t think that’s a good idea, maybe you could hire a sushi chef.” I laughed and didn’t hold the lack of faith against him, collectively the four of us had invested over 100 hours into the fish and he just didn’t want me to mess it up. On Thursday our friend Craig Heller came up from Riffe's office to help us prepare the food. We served about two hundred people that night and showed some of Riffe's new movies and an early edit of John's fiji piece. For me the highlight was when Ryan, who earlier was skeptical about me making the food, said we should quit our jobs and open a restaurant together. Big thanks to Brandon, Ryan and Mike for taking me on the boat and everyone at Riffe for working with us on the product collab and throwing a bitching party with us.
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